If you like caramel and burnt sugar flavors, this recipe will tickle your taste buds. Dulce de leche is sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked down until the sugar has caramelized, yielding a thick, sticky, caramel-flavored milk with a creamy, spreadable texture. While it can be made at home, it can also be purchased. I use Nestlé brand, which can often be found in the Spanish foods section in the supermarket. The dulce de leche is combined with yellow cake, dipped in milk chocolate, and drizzled with caramel, and the result will appeal to kids and adults alike.
Dulce de Leche cake balls
Makes about 56 golf ball–size balls
- 1 batch Yellow Buttermilk Cake (see below), baked, cooled, and crumbled
- 1 (13.4-ounce) can dulce de leche
- 1 3/4 pounds milk chocolate, such as Callebaut or Valrhona Jivara, finely chopped
- 5 ounces caramel, such as Nestlé (see the Note)
- 56 miniature fluted paper cups (optional)
1. Combine the cake with ¾ cup of the dulce de leche. Test by compressing and tasting, and add more dulce de leche only if needed for flavor and moisture. Roll into golf ball–size cake balls. Refrigerate until firm. This can be done 1 day ahead; store in an airtight container once they are firm.
2. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler. Dip the balls one at a time in the chocolate, encouraging any excess chocolate to drip back into the container. Place, evenly spaced, on the prepared pans. Refrigerate briefly until the chocolate is set.
3. Melt the caramel in the microwave until fluid, watching carefully so that it doesn’t boil. Use a fork to drizzle caramel zigzags on top of each ball. Refrigerate again until the caramel is set. Trim the bottoms, if needed. Place each cake ball in a paper cup, if desired. Place in a single layer in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Note: Block caramel, especially Nestlé brand, is available from several baking supply sources and has a far superior taste to the smaller individual caramels that you might find at the supermarket. It is well worth seeking out.
Yellow Buttermilk Cake
This is a buttery yellow cake, perfect for cake balls that need a fairly neutral flavor background. It works well combined with everything from jam to liqueur to ganache and various frostings.
Makes one 9 x 13-inch base cake (about 12 cups crumbs)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat the inside of a 9 x 13-inch rectangular pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.
3. In a larger bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice. Beat in the vanilla.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time scraping down after each addition and allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternating with the buttermilk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center shows a few moist crumbs when removed. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. The cake is ready to use. Alternatively, double-wrap the pan in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 day before proceeding.
Photo © 2012 by Sabra Krock Photography; Recipe © 2012 by Dede Wilson and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.
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